“Crime violence engulfs a region years after civil wars ended”
Earlier in January, I was in El Salvador to celebrate the 23rd anniversary of the accords that ended the 12-year civil war. My predecessor Javier Perez de Cuellar worked hard to help seal the deal to end a war that left more than 75,000 dead and shook the region. A generation later, the armed conflicts ceased and the political violence has been reduced. Now there are democratic elections. But there still are challenges to solve. On the anniversary day, 22 people were killed. That would be the equivalent to more than 1,000 dead in the US. Transnational organized crime, gang violence and drug trafficking control the Northern Triangle of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. The proximity to drug-producing and drug-consuming countries has propagated criminality and brutality. The region has the highest murder rates in the world. Almost the same number of people have died in El Salvador since the end of the civil war as those during the fighting. Half of the population was born after the Peace Agreement of 1992. The youth, without jobs and hope, is the most vulnerable. 40% of the people murdered are children or teenagers. Every three hours a woman or girl is a victim of sexual violence. The kids cannot play in the streets; the people cannot leave home knowing that they will return. A young woman said that they feared the future. This causes many people, including children (sometimes on their own) to literally run for their lives. The countries themselves must do more. Over 90% of murders in El Salvador and Honduras are not prosecuted, prisons are overcrowded and the institutions are filled with corruption. The United States also needs to do more to reduce drug consumption and stop the flow of weapons. Fortunately there is determination to confront these issues. I announced the opening of the first-ever UN office of human rights in Honduras, with full support of the Government. The administrations of the region have adopted a Central American Security Strategy, to coordinate and develop joint policies to stop violence. They have also created the Alliance for Prosperity to promote investment, production and integration. El Salvador has an action plan to improve education, public spaces for recreation and prison conditions. Central America has walked a long way to reconciliation, and “the wars in Central America may be over --and the anniversary of their end should be celebrated--. But the people of the region are still waiting for the full peace and stability they deserve”.